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Page last updated at 13:24 GMT, Monday, 23 March 2009

BJP refuses to drop Varun Gandhi

Varun Gandhi
Mr Gandhi denies the accusations made against him

India's opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) says ex-PM Indira Gandhi's grandson will be an election candidate, despite anti-Muslim accusations.

The Election Commission (EC) had advised the BJP not to nominate Varun Gandhi, saying he had made "highly derogatory" remarks while campaigning.

The BJP said the EC was biased and that only courts could rule on candidacy.

Mr Gandhi expressed "deep disappointment over the unseemly haste" in which the EC had acted.

He has denied making the comments and said a recording of the remarks had been "doctored".

The Election Commission, however, said it was convinced that footage of Mr Gandhi's speech had "not been tampered with, doctored or morphed as alleged by the respondent".

'Victim'

In a 10-page order, the commission said that Mr Gandhi, 29, "does not deserve to be a candidate" in next month's election.

I remain confident for I believe my real court of appeal lies with the people
Varun Gandhi

It said Mr Gandhi's statements contained "highly derogatory" references and seriously provocative language of a "wholly unacceptable" nature.

However, Balbir Punj, a spokesman for the BJP, India's main opposition party, said the commission had "no authority to give such a direction to a political party".

"Varun Gandhi is the BJP candidate in Pilibhit [constituency in Uttar Pradesh]. What I am telling you is the outcome of the consultations among the BJP leaders."

Mr Gandhi, who is making his political debut in the election, condemned the EC decision, saying he was "astonished that such harsh censure should be used without any attempt to ascertain the truth".

He said that in its "adverse remarks and recommendations to the BJP" the EC had "acted beyond its jurisdiction and has surpassed its powers".

He added: "I remain confident for I believe my real court of appeal lies with the people."

The footage of Mr Gandhi's rallies on 6 and 8 March in Pilibhit have been broadcast on Indian television.

Mr Gandhi cannot be barred from contesting elections unless he is convicted or found guilty by courts, but criminal charges have now been filed against him.

Mr Gandhi is the son of Sanjay Gandhi, Indira Gandhi's younger son who was killed in a plane crash.

Although he is a descendant of the influential Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, Mr Gandhi belongs to a side of the family that has disowned them.



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